As I See It: Online chorus: Welcome to the bent minds of a brave new worldThese days more and more of our news gets posted and read online. One feature of the Journal’s daily Web postings — “Article Comments” – seems to be busting the charts.
By: Phil Pfuehler, River Falls Journal
These days more and more of our news gets posted and read online. One feature of the Journal’s daily Web postings — “Article Comments” – seems to be busting the charts.
Often when tallying what gets read, we notice more “hits” for the commentary link than the original story!
That means some readers skip the story and go straight to the responses (like skipping dinner for dessert?).
What might seem like minor news — last week’s announcement that a container with a preserved fetus from the 1960s was found in storage on the UW-RF campus — can ignite a robust, meandering debate.
If you haven’t done so yet, check out www.riverfallsjournal.com to see how this works. You’ll find that Web commentators like to cloak their identities with a pseudonym.
Responding to the campus fetus story, the first of nearly 60 online comments was short and simple:
But what followed was an avalanche, sometimes unrelated to the topic. Here’s a scattered sample:
What’s getting old is you not being able to stay focused on the article....blah blah blah -- babs l
As you can see, reader commentary can veer off track and become personal.
That frustrated James Ingli from Woodbury, Minn., who claimed firsthand knowledge of the campus fetus.
His e-mail questioned why I allowed the “politics and stupidity” of reader commentary to distort the brief Web story.
Wrote James: “This fetus was a part of the biology specimen collection. Dr. B.H. Kettelkamp showed it to us during Human Anatomy class. What is wrong with the bent mind your readers and why were the comments allowed to shame the purpose of this discovery?”
My response was that online comments, like print letters to the editor, are largely unregulated. I don’t like or agree with all, others I find absurd.
That’s beside the point. My judgment doesn’t count.
Weekly opinion pages and online daily comments form a running dialogue. That’s free speech, part of the community mosaic, if you will.
Join in or just follow along to see what the hot topics are. If certain story comments repel, maybe scrolling around you’ll find others that are appealing.
When I’m asked to compare the value of print letters vs. online commentary, I say letters win by a mile. They’re signed!
That puts a real name with a real person behind the opinion. It also causes people to write more seriously because they don’t want to be laughed off the planet.
We try to screen online comments for profanity and scurrilous attacks on private citizens. Because they’re typically anonymous, some online views do descend into mind-bending foolishness.
And isn’t that why — while we don’t always take them seriously — we can’t stop reading them?